Improving the evaluation of outreach

Understanding effective evaluation of the impact of outreach interventions on access to higher education: an institutional approach


This programme of work will help us to understand more about the most effective ways for universities and colleges to reach out to people from groups that are currently under-represented in higher education in England, and raise their aspirations and attainment so that they may apply to higher education.

It aims to:

Why do we need to do this?

Outreach plays an important role in widening participation by raising aspirations and attainment among potential students from disadvantaged backgrounds, so that they apply to go to higher education and have the grades needed to get in. Universities and colleges therefore invest substantial sums of money in outreach schemes (a total of £136.1 million in 2016-17 access agreements). OFFA, the government, and the institutions themselves, all want to make sure that money is being spent strategically for the maximum possible benefit. 

Some universities and colleges use robust evaluation to find out how much impact their outreach schemes are having, so they can they can take a strategic, evidence-led approach to choosing where to invest their time and money, focusing on the activities and ways of working that are most effective in their own context. But many others are currently not evaluating as effectively as we would like.

OFFA has challenged universities and colleges to improve their evaluation and this programme of work aims to support all universities and colleges in meeting that challenge. It will do this by helping them to understand more about effective evaluation and thus evaluate more effectively and more consistently across the whole higher education sector, taking into account each university or college’s specific context and aims. It is a key aspect of OFFA’s support for institutions to take an evidence-led approach to improving performance across the whole student lifecycle, as discussed in our strategic plan.

What is happening?

This programme of research consists of three streams of work:

Want more information?

Contact Richard Shiner, Head of Evidence and Effective Practice (0117 931 7171,